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A long running Western series about the adventures of the Marshal and citizenry of Dodge City, Kansas. It started as a radio series, then moved to television (with a completely different cast) in 1955.
At 20 seasons, the TV version was/is the longest running prime time American dramatic series (Law and Order tied this record in 2010, though Gunsmoke produced more episodes) and the archetypical television example of the Western genre.
The show's cast included some of the most memorable characters in television history, including Marshal Matt Dillon and the sassy Miss Kitty. A good example of its impact: the planet on which the "Space Western" anime Trigun is set is called "Gunsmoke".
Gunsmoke is the Trope Namer for:
- Adult Fear
- Affectionate Parody: Both Maverick and The Flintstones parodied the show.
- All Crimes Are Equal: Stealing a horse is a hanging offense.
- You Fail Geography Forever: The show features mountain and desert landscapes. In Kansas.
- The Bartender: Sam, Miss Kitty's right-hand man, who was eventually killed in a bar fight.
- The Blacksmith: Quint Asper, played by a young Burt Reynolds.
- Bloodless Carnage: For all the times people are getting shot, you'd think there'd be more blood.
- Book Dumb: Festus.
- Bounty Hunters: "Dead or Alive" usually comes with a reward.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Chester disappears without explanation in season 9, as does Miss Kitty in season 20.
- Clueless Deputy: Festus Haggen
- Chester more or less served as this in the radio version and the first few TV seasons, although the character was never officially deputized.
- Corrupt Hick: A few are inevitable in the Wild West.
- Deadpan Snarker: Doc Adams
- Determined Homesteader's Wife: Matt meets a few.
- Determined Widow: Some of these, too.
- Downer Ending: A lot of the earlier episodes had these, before Reverse Cerebus Syndrome set in.
- Five-Man Band
- Florence Nightingale Effect: There's an episode where a woman cares for a wounded prisoner and falls in love with him.
- Frontier Doctor: Doc Adams
- Frozen in Time: 1873 somehow managed to last for 20 years.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: Kitty's entire wardrobe.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Miss Kitty
- Hostage Situation: Used as a plot device a few times.
- I Have Your Significant Other: At least one episode included villains who kidnapped Miss Kitty in order to trap Matt.
- Ill Girl: Newly's wife. Her death prompted him to become Doc's apprentice.
- Instrumental Theme Tune: Probably among the most famous of these.
- Just a Flesh Wound
- Long Runners: The TV show ran in various versions for 20 seasons, a record for a prime-time drama series that stood for 35 years, and which still stands today, though they now share it with Law and Order.
- Loveable Rogue: JJ, in the episode The Widow and the Rogue.
- Mauve Shirt: Even when killing off characters a few minutes after they're introduced, there's often at least some effort at characterization.
- Miscarriage of Justice: In one episode, a thief is executed for a murder he didn't commit.
- Another time, a man is convicted of stealing a horse that he paid for. It's subverted in that Matt believes he's innocent, and doesn't
- Miss Kitty: The Trope Namer, Amanda Blake's character is now more or less universally assumed to be a Madam as well as saloonkeeper, and her impeccably dressed and coiffed girls up to more activity than just dancing and playful flirting. (The producer-director is quoted in a 1953(!) Time magazine interview: "We never say it, but Kitty is a prostitute, plain and simple.") But these implications were subtle enough to go over the heads of younger (and extremely naive older) viewers:
(From King of the Hill)
- The Mountains (and Deserts) of Kansas
- The Movie: There were a couple of made-for-television movie sequels to the series, including one that introduced the character of Matt's daughter.
- Never Learned to Read: Festus' illiteracy is often brought up; sometimes it serves as a critical plot point, but often is used as comedic fodder, particularly as a target of Doc's sarcastic mockery. This can come off as insensitive to modern-day viewers; however, such humor was not unusual in the show's broadcast era, and illiteracy would have hardly been uncommon in the 19th Century frontier setting.
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: There's a boy whose father is killed, and says the man never loved him. He is chastised by a judge, who shows him that his father did love him, he just didn't know how to show it.
- One-Man Army: Matt Dillon
- Opening Narration: In the radio version; some episodes of the television version also opened with a voice-over introducing the show and James Arness as Matt Dillon.
- The Other Darrin: The TV show featured an entirely different cast from the radio version.
- Outlaw: Oodles and oodles.
- Pistol Whip
- Prop Recycling
- Radio Drama: Originally.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Many later-season episodes barely feature star James Arness at all, a concession to his physical ailments (war injuries and his height led to chronic leg and joint pain). Often, Matt Dillon would be featured only in the opening and closing scenes, with his absence in-between explained by some out-of-town errand. Several episodes' worth of these brief scenes would be filmed in a few days, giving Arness more rest time between Dillon-heavy episodes.
- Also, Milburn Stone's 1971 heart surgery caused his absence for a number of episodes. His character, Doc Adams, was said to have unexpectedly left town for updated medical training after he believes his rural isolation and lack of newer skills contributed heavily to the death of a young girl.
- Red Right Hand: A few of the bad guys have had scars and such.
- Red Shirt: Shootouts would be boring if nobody ever died.
- Reverse Cerebus Syndrome
- The Rustler: People who steal livestock
- Saloon Owner: Miss Kitty
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Doc, occasionally.
- Sound to Screen Adaptation
- Spoiled Brat: In the episode Susan was Evil, Susan is selfish and unkind because she always got whatever she wanted. When it appears as if she isn't going to get her way, she betrays her aunt's fiance to bounty hunters.
- Spoiler Title: The episode The Widow and the Rogue. Her husband dies.
- Stealth Insult: Doc once told Festus that he would never die of overusing his cranial faculties. Festus thought it was a good thing. Doc does this sort of thing quite a few times.
- Sudden Name Change: Chester's surname went from "Proudfoot" in the radio series to "Goode" in the TV version.
- Sympathetic Murder Backstory: In the radio version, the Doctor had unwillingly killed a man in a duel back East, and had to flee and change his name to avoid extralegal retaliation. This was changed for the TV show.
- Syndication Title: The half-hour TV episodes were retitled Marshal Dillon in order to differentiate them from the hour-long episodes that were later made.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: The show never entirely specified what the relationship between Matt and Miss Kitty was, but it seemed generally understood by the rest of the cast that they were somehow involved.
- The producers toyed with having them get married, but ultimately held off as they thought it would change the formula too much, in those days when Status Quo Is God was absolutely the norm.
- US Marshal: Matt Dillon
- Victim of the Week
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Doc Adams and Festus. Much of the show's humor lies in their constant bickering and sarcastic snarking, but just let one or the other get sick/injured or in any kind of trouble, and their underlying affection and respect becomes apparent.
- We Have to Get the Bullet Out: In an episode where an outlaw gets shot, they remove the bullet.
- The Western
- Western Characters
- The Wild West
- You Look Familiar: Over the 20 season run, a few actors came back to play other characters.